Introduction to the politics of life: a biopolitical mess

Greg Bird, Heather Lynch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Abstract

This introduction to our special issue focuses on the messiness of biopolitics. The biopolitical is a composite mixture of heterogeneous, and sometimes conflicting, forces, discourses, institutions, laws, and practices that are embedded in and animated by material social relations. In the now extensive literature on biopolitics, our biopolitical era is characterized by the blending and mixing of what were previously thought of as separate realms: life is biologized, politics is biologized and biology is politicized, life and politics have been economized, and making life is intertwined with making death. This paper provides a general overview of two strains of these biopolitical entanglements. We begin by examining the largely French and Italian focus on how politics and life have become economized in contemporary neoliberalism. We then turn to the largely Anglo-American focus on the biologization of life. We conclude by taking up the central problem that arises from the messiness of biopolitics: whither the political of the biopolitical economy of life? Is there such a thing as the political proper in our era? If not, then what type of politics must be deployed to address the issues of our biopolis?
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)301-316
Number of pages16
JournalEuropean Journal of Social Theory
Volume22
Issue number3
Early online date24 Apr 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2019

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politics
neoliberalism
Social Relations
biology
death
economy
Law
discourse
literature

Keywords

  • anthropocene
  • posthumanism
  • necropolitics
  • biopolitics
  • homo oeconomicus
  • Foucault
  • geontopolitics

Cite this

Bird, Greg ; Lynch, Heather. / Introduction to the politics of life: a biopolitical mess. In: European Journal of Social Theory. 2019 ; Vol. 22, No. 3. pp. 301-316.
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Bird, G & Lynch, H 2019, 'Introduction to the politics of life: a biopolitical mess', European Journal of Social Theory, vol. 22, no. 3, pp. 301-316. https://doi.org/10.1177/1368431019838455

Introduction to the politics of life: a biopolitical mess. / Bird, Greg; Lynch, Heather.

In: European Journal of Social Theory, Vol. 22, No. 3, 01.08.2019, p. 301-316.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Bird G, Lynch H. Introduction to the politics of life: a biopolitical mess. European Journal of Social Theory. 2019 Aug 1;22(3):301-316. https://doi.org/10.1177/1368431019838455